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Soldier from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Familiar, Yet Fresh: First Impressions of the Call of Duty Modern Warfare Beta

In my first hour of playing the Call of Duty Modern Warfare Beta, a couple of things were immediately apparent.On one hand, this definitely feels like Call of Duty. On the other hand, something feels different. It is that something different that propelled me into the next several hours of gameplay. Among the typical tropes of the recent Call of Duty games such as the quick arcadey gun play, the formulaic map design, and the semi realism of the graphical design, there are new small tweaks. These tweaks by themselves would not be much to talk about, but combined with the already laid foundation creates something altogether new and fresh. Let’s break this down.

More Than A Fresh Coat of Paint

The first thing you notice right off the bat are the gorgeous visuals courtesy of the franchises new secret weapon. For the first time in over a decade, Call of Duty is being built from the ground up in a fresh new game engine. This new engine boasts 4K HDR support, a new volumetric lighting system, and advanced photogrammetry. In particular, the gun models and character designs look the most detailed and realistic than they ever have. The character avatars are based off of real life models and also emulate that with realistic motion and reactions. The gun models are the real stars though. The immaculate attention to detail really lends itself well to making you really feel like a badass tier one operator. The unique moving parts of each weapon create an amazing sense of realism as you unload a magazine at an enemy. All of that cultivates into a gorgeous new package that, while looking familiar in some aspects, looks distinctly more life like. If you are a long time player of the franchise, be prepared to be quite impressed by the improvements.

All of these new graphical enhancements are also complemented by a revamped sound design suite. The blasts of shotguns and and quick terrifying clinks of sniper fire really echo through the environment. The sound of both your teammates and enemies has been vastly remixed, as enemy sounds such as footsteps and gasps of dying breaths seem to trumpet over the soft pseudo ghost whispers of your teammates cheers and shouts. Explosions would be the only real mixed bag here, as some grenades such as the Flash bang really seem to celebrate the high pitched sting of disorientation, while the frag grenade still seems to suffer from the problem of sounding like someone is smothering the sound with a pillow. The bangs are not always as loud as they feel they should be, but in the grand scheme of the full catalogue of sounds is a small nitpick to have.

As an added treat though, it seems the playable characters, of which there were a few to play, seem to have a small playful group of voice lines to call out to each other with. This actually elicited a few chuckles from me and made them seem like more than just different skins to wear while I murdered the enemy.

So with this fresh coat of paint in mind, the question comes to this: How does it play? As a long time fan of the series, you will know what to do immediately. Nothing is drastically changed. It is still one hundred percent the same Call of Duty. It is fun, engaging, and fast. If you were really looking for something brand new, for Infinity Ward to completely uproot the foundation of the series and build a whole new gameplay loop, you are out of luck. Still the same game but, there are some pretty significant tweaks to the formula.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Gone are the exo-suits, parkour, and jet packs of the past. In their place is a return to boots on the ground movement, very reminiscent of the original Modern Warfare Trilogy, but with a few new tricks. The entire movement system is now more momentum based. Along with the classic running action, attached to the analog stick, is a new sprinting option. This allows you to increase your movement rate, at the expense of not having your gun pointing forward. This creates interesting risk-reward situations. Do I sprint to flank a gang of converging enemies as quick as possible, or do I take cover and wait?

Waiting though has its own benefits now, with what is essentially an improved version of the cover mount from Call of Duty Ghosts. Simply ADS at a corner or over a waist level piece of cover and click the right analog stick. This mounts you to the cover, giving you a great amount of protection and firing stability in equal measure. If you do choose to sprint though, a quick and simple trick is now at your disposal. As you sprint, press the crouch button and fall into a slide that will take your further depending on the speed at which you were moving.

All of these small addition amount to an actually incredible feeling of both weightiness yet agility. Combat is changed immediately by being able to engage the enemy with the improved powerful feeling weapons, and turning on a dime to flee and slide into cover among the wreckage of war around you. The design of that wreckage is improved as well. The few maps available to play were all on the smaller to mid-range size. There still felt like a good bit of variety here for the few game modes available. The maps still feel like the same old three lane design. Should I flank left? Maybe right? Or maybe, there is another way. Verticality is the fourth option now.

Vantage points are now littered all over the place. Buildings and hidey holes scattered everywhere with the express mission of complementing the new mounting and movement mechanics. One map called Azhir Caves essentially splits into five lanes, caves on one side and cliffs on the other side. The emphasis on verticality oozes everywhere on this map, creating dynamic situations with in its cramped corridors, forcing everyone to be more considerate and aware of their surroundings. In short, a welcome improvement to what was growing to be a stale map formula.

Less Resrictions, More Decisions

Finally, you can not talk about Call of Duty Multiplayer without mentioning loadouts. Earlier, I mentioned how much better the weapon designs were. I was able to really come to this conclusion not just through the gameplay but through the Gun Bench. Loadouts are all customized here from the main menu. Your entire loadout is laid across a workbench in the background, while you build your arsenal with a new loadout system. No more picking a set number of combined weapons, attachments, and perks. You are always allowed two weapons now, with each one having a set number of attachment slots. You can swap out standard fare, like silencers or extended mags, or you can also attach a perk to a weapon. Instead of using one of your three perk slots on your character for a quick reload perk, just attach it to the gun you use the most. It opens up some very cool possibilities, that honestly in the beta was kinda limited since your rank capped out at 10. Still the possibilities are there and it will be fun to see where it goes.

In conclusion, Multiplayer is a staple of Call of Duty. It is what made this series the juggernaut it is today. All of these elements I mentioned, from the slick new movement mechanics to the great tweaks to the map design, set this year’s entry to the franchise as one to watch. I am motivated to return wholesale to the franchise in a way I have not been in years. If the impressions this beta has given are truly indicative of the final product, I will be one fan who will happily invest in a copy this October.

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